Borat Fundamentals – by Panda Kroll, Esq.
1.Who is “Borat”?
“Borat” is the namesake character of the mockumentary, “Borat: Cultural Learningsof America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” He is portrayed by BritishTV comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who invented the character for TV. Cohen’s work inthe film was recognized with a Golden Globe (“Best Actor in a Comedy or Drama”).
2.What is the film about and how did it fare?
Borat portrays a fictional Kazakh reporter making a documentary about Americanculture for the fictional Kazakhstan Ministry of Information. Believing the fiction,ordinary Americans are duped into portraying themselves on the film in an unflatteringlight, candid-camera style. The ad-lib film, which was originally expected to flop, earned$260M at the box office and a 2007 Oscar nomination for “best adapted screenplay.”3.
Who is suing Cohen/Borat and 20
C. Fox and why?
Ten plaintiffs who appeared in Borat filed suit, but none survived early dismissal (seechart, infra). Claims generally allege invasion of privacy, unauthorized use of likeness,fraudulent inducement, rescission, emotional distress and pray for injunctive relief (tostop DVD sales).
4.Why did all ten lawsuits fail?
Cohen and his producers were successful in asserting two defenses: First, the“consent agreement” signed by many of the plaintiffs included a merger clause that, pursuant to a New York Federal District Court judge, precluded claims for fraud.
Second, even where no consent was given, both New York and California courts agreedthat the film’s themes were of “public interest,” trumping the plaintiffs’ privacy interests.In L.A. Superior Court, plaintiffs paid nearly $100,000 in Anti-SLAPP attorney fees, because they could not support their damages claim.
5.Who are Borat’s targets?
Possibly you and I! Cohen has written and will likely star as an ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyer in a new film, “Accidentes.” The protagonist will be a lawyer of Latin descent who transforms from contingency attorney to a hero of the working class,while becoming the enemy of L.A.’s power elite.
In addition to prior TV portrayals of his “Borat” character, Cohen is also known for his wannabe-gangsta-rapper, “Ali G” and “Bruno” (a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter who will be the centralcharacter in a Borat “sequel” slated for July 2009). Cohen has also been signed to play Sherlock Holmesopposite Will Farrell, and Abbie Hoffman in a film on the Chicago Seven.
The dismissal of one such case has been appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.